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Inside chaotic Lagos Computer Village

The Computer Village in Ikeja, the Lagos State capital, is West Africa’s largest market for information technology products and has found its way into the…

The Computer Village in Ikeja, the Lagos State capital, is West Africa’s largest market for information technology products and has found its way into the world’s technology map.
People from different parts of the country and, indeed, different parts of the sub-region do business there daily.
Available statistics estimate that transactions worth N1 billion are traded daily at the renowned market on computers, phones, accessories and other affiliated gadgets in sales and repairs. There is also trade in cameras. Statistics have also shown that over 20 million phones are sold at the Computer Village monthly.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said the Computer Village contributed about 2 per cent to the national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014.
The location of the village was a residential area until the late 1990s when Internet technology began becoming a household name in corporate Nigeria.
Knowing that a major industry was about to spring forth, savvy businessmen took position in a most vantage location of Ikeja, the Otigba Street, to commence trading in IT equipment and devices.
 By 2002, a year after GSM services were introduced to Nigeria, Computer Village had become a household name among telecommunication users, especially small businesses and end users.
Today, the name ‘Ikeja Computer Village’ brings about only one thing to the mind: a central market for information and communication technology products, services and expertise.
Acclaimed as Nigeria’s largest technology market, the Village has become the one-stop solution for virtually all ICT products like computers and its accessories, printers, cameras, compact discs, mobile phones etc.
The Ikeja Computer Village is an exceptionally busy market where many high-tech companies are well represented, and technicians, app developers and IT experts of all kinds do their trade. It attracts patronage from individuals and corporate organisations from across the country.
With customer traffic is so high in every nook and cranny of the market it doesn’t ever suffer a dull moment. However, the customer population that is its strength would also seem to be its eyesore, as a mixture of the mill of traders, touts and visitors creates a chaotic congestion.
With many tales of crime always emanating from the market, and dirt and disorder assailing the sight, the Lagos State government under former governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, made efforts to rid the market of touts and filth. As a permanent solution, Fashola began moves to relocate the market to Katangowa in Agbado Oke-Odo, where a bigger space was allocated to the traders and it was expected there would be order and cleanliness.
According to Fashola then, the aim of the government was to position the Computer Village to replicate the US Silicon Valley in Nigeria.
The Computer Village is an apt story of the good, the bad and the ugly. While it is home to hardworking youths, the middle-aged and the elderly selling and repairing mobile phones, computers and other ICT gadgets in wholesale and retail forms, it also accommodates hoodlums who have seen in it just the place to perpetrate crime for their day-today survival.
At the Computer Village, losing your wallet to pickpockets is as easy as buying a completely fake ICT product or mobile phone for the price of an original from touts, or even from registered shops. The village has assumed the notoriety of being a dumping ground for all sorts of fake mobile phones, ICT equipment and fairly used phones known as ‘London-Used.’
Ordinarily, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) require type approval of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on mobile devices before selling them in the market, but some phone manufacturers bypass the NCC and go straight to distributors and retailers at the Computer Village to hit the market. Today, over 40 different types of mobile phones are said to be in the market without NCC type approval.
The Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) had on several occasions raided the market to rid it of fake and sub-standard products, to no avail. After every raid, it is business as usual for dealers in such products.
President of the Phone and Allied Products Dealers Association (PAPDAN), Mr. Godfrey Iyke Nwosu, said many business dynamics are impacting the market as it is losing ground to other African markets.
To Nwosu, to retain the relevance of the market, government ought to make deliberate policies to protect local investors and OEMs. The PAPDAN president said the present foreign exchange impasse also has negative impact on the market.
Nodding in agreement, Mrs. Adenike Shittu, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Mojoy Computers, said that the Computer Village used to be the toast of other West African markets, but the evolution of online retailers has led to a decline in patronage.
Shittu called on e-commerce retailers to regard Computer Village operators as credible partners in the computer and electronics distribution chain, and as business people who are ready to rebrand for better operations.
But, Ojikutu Adeniyi, principal partner, Pacific Network Solutions Limited, said that a solution to the Computer Village issue revolves around operators in the market creating values to lure customers.
Adeniyi advised that instead of seeking help from either the government or other market segments, operators at the market must embrace technology and close ranks among themselves to create the environment for trust and confidence from visitors.
“We need to embrace the internet. Today, Yudala is taking charge because we do not even have anything like Computervillage.com where people can search and obtain first-hand information about the market. How do we measure our successes and failures? The ultimate thing is to close ranks and maintain standards. By the time people visit Computer Village and are satisfied, they will Visit again,” she said.
Also, a pioneer trader at the market, Mr. Patrick Anthony, said “This is the biggest technology market in Africa where you can find a wide array of branded computers and cloned PCs. The market is also host to a multitude of digital cameras and camera accessories, and mobile phones and accessories. This is a market awash with computer technical gurus,” he said.
“As the largest technology market in Africa, it is usually very busy and rowdy. But it differs greatly from other markets in that it is home to the major dealers of mobile phones and computers, as well as their accessories. The market was never planned to be what it is, so finding your way around it might be problematic if you are a first-time visitor,” Anthony explained.

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